Individual Work
Ceci n'est pas un Nike

Giselle Beiguelman's "Ceci n'est pas un Nike" takes clear inspiration from the text written beneath René Magritte's famous painting, "La trahison des images." In this case, however, it is not the pipe that is not, but the tennis shoe. This interactive work allows its viewers to warp, drag, and smash an image of the Nike brand's famous footwear. While not an overtly "literary" piece of digital art, the piece might appeal to anyone interested in the history and development of the self-reflexive pairing of image and text that Magritte's painting in some sense inaugurates. This tradition has a strong connection to a variety of literary forms, including concrete poetry, image poetry, ASCII art, and—perhaps most significant for readers of this directory—electronic literature and digital art. Beiguelman's remediation with "Nike," however, does not run perfectly parallel to the original. If Magritte's original painting calls the viewer's attention to the difference between reality and representation, "Ceci n'est pas un Nike" calls attention to various modes of representation in the age of digitally rendered information. One can choose to take this image for what it initially seems to represent—a status symbol from the world of sports and consumer culture—or one can interfere in the delivery of its commercial message by pulling it apart, shattering it, dragging it, and then saving the image that one has created in an online gallery of similarly distressed shoes that others can view. In this way, Beiguelman's version pushes Magritte's initial impulse even farther, taking advantage of the digital medium to accomplish something that Magritte's classic cannot. By calling attention to the ways that digitally rendered images can be manipulated and propagated by inviting the viewer to take control of the representation, it lets the viewer intervene in the border zone between reality and representation. Also, by inviting viewers to destroy an iconic item from consumer culture, it creates a space for them to participate in a collaborative mode of expressive critique that challenges the commercial mode of representation that such images foster.